New Israeli military aid requests are before the Carter administration at a particularly sensitive juncture in United States relations with both Israel and the Arab world: the bitter aftermath of President Carter's recent apology for a US vote in the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in occupied Arab territory.
Israel has decided to abandon earlier plans to co-produce in Israel, with the American manufacturers, either the Northrop or McDonnell-Douglas versions of the US Navy's F-18 Hornet fighter or the General Dynamics F-16. Instead, it wants to produce its own new-generation fighter, the Lavi (a Hebrew word for lion), using the new F-404 augmented turbofan jet engine made in the US by General Electric.
A much smaller plane than the F-16 or F-18, the Lavi is designed to outfight new French and Soviet jets to be supplied to Arab states, including Iraq and Syria, in the 1980s and '90s.
US Defense Department spokesman Thomas Ross says the Pentagon is "studying" the Israeli request. At the same time, the administration's requests for increased military aid for Israel in fiscal 1981 are coming before Congress.
Supporters of Israel are arguing in favor of selling it the GE engine and maintaining the $1.2 billion the administration requested in US military aid to Israel in fiscal 1981, $200 million more than in 1980.
Israel would like to have repayment of at least half of this $1.2 billion in foreign military sales (FMS) credits allotted as a grant rather than the usual US loan. Administration analysts indicate preference that only $500 million in credits be granted.
Israel also is getting about $785 million in economic support funds (ESF) and be used by the US under the Camp David peace agreement.
Defense Department analysts expect some efforts in Congress to make across-the-board cuts in aid to Israel, as well as to other aid recipients.
In a survey of 1,000 of his constituents in the Palo Alto area of California, Rep. Paul McCloskey (R) found that 83.5 percent favored reducing the ESF aid to Israel if that nation did not halt new settlements in occupied Arab territory. The National Association of Arab-Americans (NAAA) is proposing such a cut of $ 150 million.
The NAAA also has sent conressmen a memorandum objecting to the sale of new GE F-404 engine to Israel on the grounds that it will increase dissemination of classified US technllogy abroad and augment Israel's military superiority over its Arab neighbours, therefore destablizing the Mideast situation further.
It is expected that the Pentagon will ask the State Department to approve the necessary export liceses for Israel to buy, first, a limited number of the F-404 engines and then move into limited production of them.
US aerospace industry analysts are concerned that the new Lavi fighter might compete with US planes made for export to friendly nations, the Aerospace Daily reports. In 1976 the State Department blocked export of Israel's home-produced Kfir (Lion Cub) fighter to Ecuador because it uses another GE engine, the J-79.